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EPA tests depot site’s ‘sediment laden waters’

Heavy rain over the past week has led to silt escaping Clarence Valley Council’s new depot site. This picture was taken before Saturday’s downpour. Image: Contributed
The ongoing saga of Clarence Valley Council’s (CVC) new depot site took another twist over the past week, with the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) issuing a statement that it was “investigating sediment laden water leaving the site of the former South Grafton STP, following a period of heavy rain”. On Wednesday March 15 an EPA officer “observed” the “sediment laden waters” and took samples, which were “dispatched for analysis”. “The EPA advised Clarence Valley Council and their contractors of the need to upgrade the sediment and erosion controls at the site and a follow up inspection is being undertaken today to ensure that the necessary upgrades are being urgently implemented,” the statement said. “The EPA investigations will continue over the coming weeks in order to determine whether there has been a breach of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act (1997).” On Monday, the EPA issued CVC and Hutchison Builders (the contractor that remediated the site) with prevention notices, “to address environmental concerns at the former South Grafton sewage treatment plant”. The EPA prevention notices state that Clarence Valley Council and Hutchison Builders must now: • Engage a consultant to prepare an Erosion and Sediment Control Plan by Wednesday 22 March; • Implement the Erosion and Sediment Control Plan by Wednesday 29 March; • and, Implement an ongoing inspection and maintenance program for erosion and sediment.” Brett Nudd, the EPA’s Manager Regional Operations North Coast, said the EPA is “working with Clarence Valley Council to ensure the necessary upgrades to the erosion and sediment controls are implemented as quickly as possible, to prevent more run off leaving the site and potentially damaging the surrounding area and waterways”. “These prevention notices are an important step in ensuring that medium term actions are taken to protect the environment,” he said. “We’ve also taken water samples that are being analysed and these results will inform our ongoing investigations. “The EPA will take a range of factors into account to determine its regulatory response, including the degree of environmental harm, potential health impacts, compliance history, public interest and best environmental outcomes.” Last Friday – before Saturday’s deluge – CVC provided a statement from its civil and corporate director, Troy Anderson, addressing community concerns regarding any contamination of the sediment that had been washed from the site due to heavy rain earlier in the week. “Contractors GHD believe the likelihood of the stormwater being contaminated is very low, based on: • The draft validation report submitted to Hutchinson Builders showed all asbestos containing material (ACM) had been removed from the soil surface onsite. • Potential contaminants of concern in the soil were validated as being within the adopted assessment criteria. • The potential contaminants of concern were not considered leachable. • Although residual, bonded asbestos may be exposed from erosion of subsurface soil and transported in stormwater, stormwater contamination associated with bonded asbestos is not considered to be a risk (as the only potential contaminant pathway for ACM is inhalation). • Risk to potential receptors (from inhalation) of this ACM would be very low in the short term due to high moisture content of the sediment (which inhibits the release of potential asbestos fibres) and the low risk of fibres resulting from bonded asbestos cement.” Members of the community can report pollution incidents to the EPA’s 24-hour Environment Line on 131 555.